When my great-grandmother, Viola, was little, she and her father walked through the forest once a week to check animal traps they'd set. Part of their route went over a river on a railroad bridge. One particular day, they were halfway across the bridge when they heard the train coming behind them. They ran for the other side. My great-great grandfather scooped Viola up in his arms, and when it looked as if they wouldn't make it across in time, he threw her toward the other side, with all the force that adrenaline gives a father as a train bears down on him and his five year old daughter. He leapt off the side of the bridge. He fell 30 feet into a freezing river.
My great-great grandfather survived. He was sure he had let his daughter die, that she had been hit by the passing train. But going into the river would just as surely have killed her, he told himself. He climbed up the bank of the river, calling her name. He could not find any evidence of her, and surely the conductor would have pulled the brakes had he hit her.
Time passed. My great-great grandfather heard squaking coming from overhead. He thought it was a turkey. It was not.
It took my great-grandmother an hour to find her voice again. She told me ninety years later that she'd forgotten how to talk, that the only thing she knew during the time between being thrown and being found was how to hold on.
She had landed in a tree. She was unhurt. She was safe.
Another Viola story next time.
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